By Christopher Bell | The Playlist July 9, 2011 at 2:18AM
Where do we start with Stanislas Graff? Played with quiet confidence by Yvan Attal, the man is the chairman of a seriously lucrative business, well-respected by his peers. A loving family surround him, fit with two admiring teenage daughters and a wife that doesn't think sleeping in a separate room is a red flag of any sort. In secret, Graff is a heavy gambler and we're treated to a brief snippet of the showboat at a grimy poker game. And, just like any wealthy male in a film like this, he's got a separate flat where he sees whatever mistress he's currently shagging. Director Lucas Belvaux establishes the whole of this guy efficiently, moving along quickly and displaying the character's ability to keep everything separate while also making it feel very routine -- he's a busy man, but he's a comfortable one.
Despite his apparent ease in juggling various different facades, less than 15 minutes into the narrative he fumbles and is drugged by a group of masked men who slice a finger off and compose a ransom of 50 million euros. Not too confident anymore, huh? While his family and co-workers scramble to put together the cash, the police begin an investigation which brings his high-rolling and playboy activities to the forefront of not only the public, but more importantly, his loved ones.
"Rapt" is conceptually interesting and also somewhat admirable: since the main character is almost immediately thrust into the given scenario, the audience is learns about him at the same time as his secrets are revealed to the other characters. Without any attempted emotional connection to the kidnappee, we’re forced to look at things a little differently than normal, and bring that different perspective to bear on the repercussions of his behavior and what kind of life someone involved in such a distressing ordeal could possibly go back to. Taking this new route definitely makes the familiar area feel fresher.
It's a great concept for a film, but unfortunately it fails in execution because there’s simply too much going on. Belvaux establishes the ideas but rarely takes them anywhere – in fact, too often a scene is simply just a character discovering information (“here’s the scene where the police tell his spouse about his affairs”) or delivering expository dialogue (“here’s the scene where his co-workers decide they don’t want him back”). It’s cold, cut, and dried: the filmmaker simply relays information to the audience without ever making an attempt to dissect or hold onto a moment. The result appears inhuman, with everything feeling like an unimaginative adaptation of a brief, context-less newspaper article.
Without any sort of insight into these moments and specific behaviors, what’s left to cling to are the unexciting scenes between Graff and his kidnappers and the various police plots to bust the criminals during a ransom drop off. The former is too derivative, but the latter sequences provide something relatively compelling including a botched ransom delivery on a train. Still, with four different perspectives chugging along and none of them ever surpassing “competent,” things start to drag and eyelids are likely to get heavy. Thankfully the director included a terribly out-of-place score which pops up from time to time and its baffling overblown nature is sure to get the brain stimulated if nothing else does.
Once the kidnapping plot is shed, we’re left with a disturbed man freed, his world now shattered. Picking up the pieces doesn’t seem arduous, it seems impossible, and his lawyer advises him to embrace a new life. He’s poised to do so until he is reminded by the antagonists that he still owes them money – and if they don’t get it, they’ll kill a person off the streets until he makes on his promise. It’s quite a fascinating position to be in and it’s hard not to wonder why this wasn’t the beginning of the film instead of the ending, even if Belvaux does manage to make his final shot somehow poignant while we’re left dangling.
It’s hard not to see “Rapt” as a missed opportunity across the board, with moments solely existing as jump-off points to get to the next instead of being substantial observations into human behavior. If we’re not going to get the thrills or shocks from this kind of plot, we’re going to need something a little more hefty than merely 'adequate.' [C]